What if Juliet Capulet met someone who made her doubt true love? What if Wuthering Heights was a message to a time traveller?
YEAR: 2083. LOCATION: LONDON. MISSION: WAKE ROMEO.
It’s the end of the world. Literally. Time travel is possible, but only forwards. And only a handful of families choose to remain in the ‘now’, living off the scraps that were left behind. Among these are eighteen-year-old Juliet and the love of her life, Romeo. But things are far from rosy for Jules. Romeo is in a coma and she’s estranged from her friends and family, dealing with the very real fallout of their wild romance. Then a handsome time traveller, Ellis, arrives with an important mission that makes Jules question everything she knows about life and love. Can Jules wake Romeo and rewrite her future?
A YA time-travelling saga that pays homage to two literary classics, Kathryn Barker’s latest novel Waking Romeo is an ambitious, sweeping science fiction saga spanning decades.
The beginning of the novel is the same as the well-known Shakespeare story. Jules and Romeo had a passionate love affair and in a moment of misguided communication, both tried to kill themselves. However, Jules survived, and Romeo’s been in a coma for two years.
Waking Romeo is set in a wasteland where most humans have travelled forward into the future. When Jules meets a group of tech-savvy people that have learnt how to travel forwards and backwards, they embark on a mission to wake Romeo.
“I know one thing definitively. Whatever Frogs is really up to, it all started before these past few hours. Lord, it has been taking place since the very beginning, when I was first recruited. My life has been manipulated for years to accomodate Jules and her love story.”
I loved Kathryn’s last book and so was really excited to delve into this one. Waking Romeo is a fresh take on the literary classics that many people have grown to love.It’s certainly a unique read, and very innovative. It’s quite the twisty read, not one for the distracted. Each chapter switches POV between Jules and time traveller Ellis, and focus must be maintained to follow the plot.
Jules’ character development is one of the strengths in the book. She starts out hurt, bitter, and perhaps a little naive to what’s around her. Over time, she becomes smart and resourceful, and sure of herself. She comes to realise her time with Romeo wasn’t what it seemed. She matures into a conscious young woman.
“After the Fall, you couldn’t keep food in a supermarket — that was the first place hungry Travellers checked in, they tell me. So our ancestors stashed books there instead. Chaucer under pet food, Greek myths in the dairy aisle, fairytales in the frozen food section.”
Whilst the book is incredibly well plotted and the scope is impressive, I found the storyline very convoluted and hard to follow. Between the two main characters travelling divergent storylines — with seperate POV chapters — and the constant jumping between future and past, I think I lost my understanding of the plot at around the halfway mark and just kept reading to find out when they’d wake Romeo.
Additionally, there are quite a few sections of the book where Ellis and Jules’ journey seems unclear, and they’re traipsing through a wasteland without clear direction. And whilst Jules and Ellis’ character developments are strong, the book features such a large cast of characters and the other main players felt a little thinly developed. I feel there could’ve been room for more character exploration.
“If there was a pod that could send me back in time, instead of just forwards? It’d take it. It’d rewind the clock. Back, back, back — all the way to the moment that Romeo and I tried to kill ourselves.”
Waking Romeo tackles themes of love, expectation, friendship and family. And expectations placed upon us by others.
Whilst recommended for teenage readers, I’d be hesitant to recommend this book to a reluctant reader. Seasoned young readers only, who you know are going to persevere with the high concept, complex plotting.
Thank you to the publisher for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Allen & Unwin Book Publishers